Going to the Source: BYU–Hawaii Students Travel to Kilauea

Contributed By Alex Chowen, Church News contributor

  • 20 August 2014

As part of an honors geology course at BYU–Hawaii, students traveled to the Big Island to study the Kilauea volcano.  Photo courtesy of BYU–Hawaii.

Article Highlights

  • Every year, BYU–Hawaii students go to the Big Island to visit the Kilauea volcano and study the geology of the islands as part of the honors geology course.
  • This summer, 13 students and two BYU–Hawaii faculty members participated in the research excursion.
  • Thanks to BYU–Hawaii’s unique proximity to such geological wonders, students can get this hands-on learning experience every year.

HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK

White sand beaches and crystal clear water might be picturesque Hawaii, but it certainly isn’t all that makes up the natural, exciting phenomena of the state. The island of Hawaii is home to the world’s most active volcano: Kilauea. The volcano has been in an eruptive state for more than a thousand years.

Every year, BYU–Hawaii students go to the Big Island to visit the Kilauea volcano and study the geology of the islands as part of the honors geology course. The four-day trip is aimed to help students understand the unique forces that created and preserved the islands.

“We could look at pictures of lava rock and their different formations in a book all semester,” said Brittany Steed, a TESOL/secondary education major from Canada, who went on the 2014 trip, “but we would have never fully comprehended it until we had found it ourselves, looked at it, held it and discussed it as a group.”

This summer, 13 students and two BYU–Hawaii faculty members participated in the research excursion. After arriving in Hilo, the students took a helicopter tour over the Kilauea volcano to see the lava flow, including a flyover of the Puu Oo, an active lava crater. During the evening, they observed the glow of the lava from a lookout on the Halemaumau crater.

This year’s expedition also included a special visit to a lava tube, a hollowed-out geological “drain pipe” where lava once flowed from the eruption site. Over time, the lava flow deteriorated and left behind miles of caverns. The particular lava tube the group visited contains more than 40 miles of weaving caverns.

Thanks to BYU–Hawaii’s unique proximity to such geological wonders, students can get this hands-on learning experience every year. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for students to see geology in action right now,” said Dr. Benjamin Jordan, associate professor of physical science and oceanography. “Students actually see the processes that make the Hawaiian Islands, and it becomes an immersive experience because they are there—a part of it.”

As part of an honors geology course at BYU–Hawaii, students traveled to the Big Island to study the Kilauea volcano. Photo courtesy of BYU–Hawaii.

BYU–Hawaii students spend a few days studying the Kilauea volcano on the Big Island as part of an honors geology course. Photo courtesy of BYU–Hawaii.

BYU–Hawaii students spend a few days studying the Kilauea volcano on the Big Island as part of an honors geology course. Photo courtesy of BYU–Hawaii.